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23 October 2012 / leggypeggy

Day 2 of the Lares Trek—sunny weather and sore joints

Quechua village

Quechua village

Quechua village

Quechua village

Andean lake view

Andean lake view

Andean lake view

Miguel’s favourite green lake

Lares Trek

Donna-Leah and Angie take the lead

Pack horses

Pack horses catch up

Grigorio's hat

Horseman Grigorio and his famous hat

Lares Trek

A brief bit of level track

Lares Trek

Surrounded by mountain majesty

Lares Trek

More mountain majesty

Lares Trek

The last bridge on Day 2

Tents

Matt and Sophia welcome us ‘home’ at the end of Day 2

Day 2 of our 28-kilometre Lares Trek was always going to be the worst. I was not looking forward to hiking an exhausting 10 kilometres uphill to a 4600-metre pass, followed by a treacherous 4 kilometres down.

But after the previous night’s rain, we woke to a sunny morning and the promise of a day of decent weather. Our wake-up call came at 5am with cups of coca tea being delivered to our tent doors, along with two basins of water so we could wash our hands and faces. Coca tea not only wakes you up, but helps you to adjust to the altitude.

The support team would pack up our tents and roll mats after we set out, but before breakfast we had to organise the rest of our belongings into our duffel bags. An easy task done within minutes.

Breakfast came 45 minutes later with everyone being served a simple veggie omelet, bread and jam, and hot drinks. I think cereal was available too, but the memory fades.

By 6:15 we were off again, with our first destination being the campsite we would have used had it not been raining the night before. That 90-minute jaunt included plenty of very steep bits and, on the way, Angie and I each had a brief turn on the horse/mule. Angie was having intermittent leg cramps, and my excuse was old age.

I can still hear Odon telling me to, ‘Get on the horse.’ I tried to resist, saying I would be fine, but he insisted. ‘Just for 10 minutes of this really steep bit,’ he said.

How could I disagree? For that matter, how could I reject such an offer? It was a most practical way for Angie and I not to straggle too far behind the rest of the group.

I should mention that Poor John is part mountain goat. He does ‘mountain’ walks most days in Canberra, with a 10-kilo pack on his back, so he easily kept pace with the young’uns. I wasn’t surprised, but Odon was definitely impressed. Luckily, Odon and Miguel stayed reasonably close to us—to keep us company and to make sure we didn’t get lost.

The uphill trek took almost five hours, with Angie and I each having three or four short stints on the horse. Thank goodness for Francisco, who led the horse and helped us off and on. Peruvian horses/mules don’t care whether you mount on the left or the right.

At one stage I had to mount from flat ground—no helpful rock about. Odon offered his shoulder as support, but I pointed out that if I used it, I’d end up backwards on the horse. That’s when Francisco pointed out the stirrups—a huge help that had been hidden under the colourful horse blanket.

The whole group stopped short of the summit for a much-needed break, and then we were off again.

Although shorter, the trip down was perhaps worse than the trip up—I think it was the longest 4 kilometres of my life and impossible to have done without the walking sticks (no horse available on the way down because it was dangerous for them too).

Many parts of the track were extremely steep with lots of loose stones and gravel. I did plenty of slipping even though I dug the walking sticks in before taking each step. There were some stone stairs, but most had high risers making every step down a jolt for the hips, knees and ankles. The fact I had hurt muy knee in July did not help.

But breathtaking views and scenery made all the suffering worthwhile. Mountain lakes, Quechua villages and people, glaciers, blue skies, gnarled trees, rocks galore. Miguel has a great interest in geology and picked up every second rock as we descended. Both he and Odon knew the various minerals and launched into long discussions. Their dawdling let Angie and me catch our breath.

It seemed that we could see our destination for hours—a schoolyard way down in the valley in the village of Cancha Cancha, which I have since learned means ‘lightning’ in the Quechua language.

At the very end this day’s trek, the terrain leveled out and then we had to cross three streams—one by steppingstones, one by branches and one by a sod bridge. Poor John and the young’uns had arrived about 1, but Angie and I and our escorts of Odon and Miguel puffed over the finish line about 2:30.

Our camp was all set up and lunch was ready almost immediately—Poor John said the cook had dithered over when to serve. Eating was not high on Angie’s or my to-do lists. Water (lots of it) and soup seemed to be the best options.

After lunch, the support team launched into a game of soccer as a lead-up to the Peru–Bolivia game that would be played later in the afternoon (they had a solar radio so they could follow the game). I crawled into our tent and collapsed for a couple of two hours.

I was able to catch my breath, thanks to the fact I was taking high altitude tablets. I still don’t know which part of my body hurt the most, but my mind kept thinking of the train to Machu Picchu and my mother’s travel dilemma many years ago.

It was six months after dad died in a car accident. Mum already hated to drive and she dreaded the thought of motoring 600 miles (900 kilometres) from Nebraska to my grandparents’ place in Wisconsin.

For weeks ahead of the trip, everyone tried to reassure her. On and on it went—‘It will be fine, Connie. Just take it easy. Peggy can help drive.’

The day before we set out, she sat at the dining room table, her head in her hands and tears rolling down her checks. She looked up to the crowd of neighbours who were wishing her well and said, ‘You all keep saying it will be fine. Why didn’t one of you just say “Take the train”?’

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4 Comments

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  1. Susan / Oct 23 2012 10:51 am

    Peggy- You are quite the trooper, but I still say you need my Lifevantage Protandim and Mannatech Ambrotose. Just saying……

    Like

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